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Is it anachronistic to associate WW2 conservatives with those of today?


Just discovered your blog last week via Wolcott and love the writing. However, I'm surprised that neither of you picked up on the news in Maureen O'Hara's recently published memoir that she found John Ford in flagrante delecto with one of his [unnamed] male stars. It sort of gives the male worship in his films an extra seasoning, no?

Phil Nugent

Ford WAS a conservative, but he deserves but be remembered as someone different from the people who've taken over that label, stretched it and pitted it out and degraded its meaning, and claimed it for their own. He was a man formed by experience who had some strongly held beliefs but wasn't looking for a crowd of nodding heads to join. One of the most famous stories about Ford is about how he shot down the attempt by Cecil B. de Mille to institute some kind of Red Scare blacklist inside the Directors' Guild by attending the meeting de Mille had called and making a simple speech, acknowledging all that de Mille had done for Hollywood but ending, "But I don't like you, C.B., and I don't like what you're trying to do here." Wayne was more a prototype modern chicken hawk. As you say, he never actually served in military combat, but --like Ronald Reagan--he seemed to think that he had. Ford, a mean bastard who liked to test people, was said to have treated them increasingly contemptously throughout the years of their association, and Wayne made sure the abuse would continue by never standing his ground or speaking back. Yet he was a much pettier bully with those he thought he could afford to push around, bragging in a Playboy interview about having run the screenwriter Carl Foreman "out of the country" in the HUAC days.

One more funny thing: the movie you mention with Wayne and Hopper, "True Grit", was directed by Henry Hathaway, who also directed "The Sons of Katie Elder", also starring Wayne. Hopper has often related the story of how he, in the grip of some maniacal Method stubborness, argued over a line reading with Hathaway until Hathaway vowed to run him out of the business, and that was pretty much Hopper's last gasp as a Hollywood player--until Hathaway hired him for "True Grit" (which ended up coming out around the same time as "Easy Rid

harry near indy



directed by john ford.

with john wayne as the ringo kid.

ladies and gents, a star was born.

and if wolcott doesn't like wayne's movies because of his politics, hell, even jean-luc godard loved the end of the searches, despite his knowledge of wayne's politics.



Stagecoach is my second favorite Ford western, after Clementine.

Wolcott says he doesn't like John Ford's movies. He doesn't say how he feels about John Wayne movies in general. And I think he made it clear that his dislike of Ford's films is a matter of aesthetic judgment and has nothing to do with Ford's politics. Or Wayne's.

I think it's his loss that he doesn't go for Ford's movies. But I've got a friend who is convinced I'm denying myself the greatest movie going experiences in the world because I don't like horror movies. To each his own.

r Anderson

The statement that John Ford was in the conservative camp during the Blacklist era is dead wrong. The blacklisting disgusted him ("John Ford" by Tag Gallagher, p. 340). He is famous for saying
"Send the commie bastard to me, I'll hire him." He had his military order condemn the HUAC hearings as witchhunts. In 1950, Cecil DeMille, proposed that the Director's Guild require a loyalty oath for its members, in what amounted to a requirement for directing movies. After a famous intense four hour debate, Ford stood up and said: " My name is John Ford, I direct westerns." He then condemned the oath and moved for DeMille's resignation and an endorsement of Joseph Mankowitz, Guild president and a left-winger. Moved by Ford's eloquent speech, the Guild passed his motion.

You have to be careful with Ford, he's a complex guy. He hated racism, but he loved the Cavalry. In 1967 in his old age, he called himself a "liberal democrat and a rebel."

And John Wayne was "pretty dam good" in a hell of a lot of movies. I don't combine politics with art. I'd be missing too much. Sinatra was an ass, Ray Charles played South Africa, Clint has some political problems, but I'll be damned if I give up "The Searchers" or "In the Wee Small Hours " because I'm a liberal.

Josh Narins

I'm a Fonda fan.

Anyway, what I really noticed, after watching 50-100 Westerns, was the politics of Native Americans. Most of the time they were savages, rarely getting a speaking role that didn't involve a reason to let a white guy give a speech.

Some of the "exceptions" involve one Native who doesn't fit the mold among a mass of savages.

The Searchers was a bit of an exception, because Wayne's character was so disgusting, but real. It's rare that even an anti-Native bigot would be protrayed in a negative light (see Heston in Arrowhead). Wayne does return to the soft side at the end, though.

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